Antarctica is an awesome and desolate place to conduct scientific research.
Antarctica is the coldest, driest, and highest continent in the world. It just happens to be located at the bottom of the globe.
Antarctica is 5.5 million mi2—almost twice the size as the contiguous United States (3.1 million mi2) or Australia (2.9 million mi2).
Check out this cool image where NASA overlaps Antarctica on the continuous USA:
McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
I work in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, near the coast.
The Dry Valleys make up less than 1% of the continent and are the only areas not filled with ice. It is mostly brown (brown sediment) and white (alpine glaciers and ice-covered lakes). There are ephemeral streams that flow for only 6-10 weeks in the austral summer to the ice-covered lakes.
For planetary research on Mars, scientists will use the Dry Valleys as an analog for Mars. Check out the trailer from The Martian.
The Dry Valleys and Mars look similar, don’t they? What differences do you see? Email or tweet what you see.
During the 24-hour daylight of the austral summer, the temperature* ranges from -20°C to 6°C (aka -4°F to 43°F).
In the winter, it ranges from -45°C to -30°C (aka -49°F to -22°F).
Is that colder than your town? Find out your average summer and winter temperatures.
*(Temperature info: http://glaciers.pdx.edu/fountain/MyPapers/DoranEtAl2002DVClimate.pdf)